Alumni Services

Lee Madden

MA Philosophy graduate, Lee Madden, arrived in Edinburgh from Belfast looking for new experiences and independence, he talks to us about being able to study fascinating outside subjects, making the most of what the University has to offer and embracing the peaks and troughs of life.


Lee Madden

Degree Course

MA Hons Mental Philosophy

Year of Graduation


Lee Madden

Your time at the University

I came to Edinburgh looking for a change of scenery. I wanted a city that was new, diverse, friendly and with a strong history. I had never set foot in Edinburgh before Freshers’ week and when I flew over on my own, I was determined to experience it all for myself and establish my independence. Edinburgh was a wonderful place to do just that and allowed for tremendous social opportunities. I lived with the same group of four chaps for my final three years, forming fantastic friendships and our own football team (named after Ron Weasleys “Chudley Cannons”).

Moving over from Belfast to study at the University was a fantastic experience; during my time there, I worked in 3 different jobs and studied a range of additional subjects from European Cinema to Japanese. Studying at Edinburgh gave me an appreciation of learning itself, inspired me to work hard and make the most of life, and taught me the value of diversity and doing what is right.

Every time I visit friends in Edinburgh, I feel nothing but affection and nostalgia for the city and University – I just wish I got back more often!

There is no shortage of such opportunities at Edinburgh but the onus is on you to take advantage of them.

Dr Peter Harris

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

Following graduation, I did not have a clue what to do with my life. However, instead of being terrified, I drew from my earlier experiences to view this new chapter as motivation to broaden my knowledge and horizons further.

I moved back to Belfast and worked various jobs including selling suits for a local business, the Courts Service of Northern Ireland and Human Resources with the BBC but I outgrew these roles quickly and my desire to learn lead me to search for something new.

In 2008, on a whim, I applied for a job at Barclays just to see what that was all about. Over the course of 4 months, I had multiple assessments, interviews, and tests.  I never really believed I would get the job, but thought at least I’m learning about interviews. Even when they offered me the position I didn’t really believe it and moved to London not knowing what I would be doing my only thought was “well, it’s going to be interesting if nothing else”.

Fast forward 5 years and I have spent time working as a branch manager in some of the most deprived areas of London, created an internal intranet site and resource for 3000 people, visited over 150 branches across England, Wales, Norther Ireland and Scotland and worked on multi-million pound business analytic projects. I had never planned to do any of this, but thought it was worth a go and I never stopped learning!

When I left Barclays in 2013, I moved to the management-consulting firm EY (Ernst & Young), to do business strategy and was immediately asked to work on a long-term derivatives project. I knew NOTHING of derivatives when I joined the project, was essentially given a book and told “go read this – learn what they are and help us sort help our client with a really challenging situation”. A year and half later a I was recognised as one of the Technical Specialists on the project and promoted to Manager making me responsible for managing one of the most complex and sensitive areas of the project.

During this time, I’ve also learned to ride a motorbike, travelled to South America, Australia and Europe, am training to run a marathon and raise money for charity, become a published Philosopher in an amateur Philosophy Journal, set up and run my own website on Cookery and mentored school children of a range of ages. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself from every single experience I’ve had and it’s been fascinating.

My time at Edinburgh University gave me the confidence to do all this. I was taught how to learn effectively inspired to carry this on after University and realised that you can get something out of all of life’s experiences, it’s just a matter of looking, thinking and reflecting on them. That, ultimately, is what Philosophy is all about.

Enjoy the now, embrace opportunities to learn and take on new challenges.

Lee Madden

Graduate advice

Enjoy the now, embrace opportunities to learn and take on new challenges.

If you focus on the values and choices that are important to you, many of the other pieces will begin to fall into place over time and not having a clear idea where you will end up is both exciting and a great opportunity to enjoy the ride. Diversity in life – in both experiences and the people you meet are good things.